Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Playing With Polymer Clay

I am enamored with polymer clay.  I don't remember when I discovered it, it might have been years ago when I watched Carol Duval on TV.  I guess I'm dating myself, but oh well.  Anyways, I started playing with polymer clay.

Way back in the stone age, the only type clay I could find, before the intervention of  widespread internet shopping, was Sculpey, which while it is a good clay,  it's not particularly strong and it is a relatively soft.  Then I found Fimo, which I believe is made in Germany.  Fimo is a tough clay in more ways than one.  It is sturdy when baked but I found it to be an exercise in frustration to work with.

The first time I worked with Fimo, now this was years ago, it crumbled into a million itty bitty bits.  I was picking up pieces of Fimo for days and cursing it the whole time.  Then I got the brilliant idea of mixing in some liquid translucent polymer clay.  That worked, after a fashion, but it took hours and hours of kneading and adding more liquid clay.  It was messy and if I scratched my nose without thinking, I ended up with liquid clay smeared across my face!   I would have chucked the whole mess against the wall but I was afraid of the mess it would make and I would have to clean it up.  I abandoned Fimo  for quite some time, after that.  I understand that they revamped the formula to make it easier to work with but I still find it an exercise in frustration.

Then came Premo.  Made by Sculpey, it's sturdier than the original but easier to condition than Fimo.  I thought I was in heaven.  I could create my pieces and not have to worry as much about the distortion that occurred with the softer clay.   And I didn't have to give myself carpal tunnel while doing it!  Perfect!

 So there I was, happily kneading and creating until one day I happened upon another polymer clay artist's website.  While reading the description of one of her pieces I noticed that she mentioned that her pieces were made of jewelry grade polymer clay.  What was this?!  Jewelry grade polymer clay??!!  What had I been using all these years to make my pieces, chopped liver?  I make jewelry, I use polymer clay, therefore the clay I was using must be jewelry grade, right?

Now, I'm naturally curious by nature, so I had to search for this elusive element.  I scoured the web, trying to find this wonder clay.  No luck!  Almost every link for jewelry grade polymer clay had a number of different brands.  I suppose I could have emailed this polymer clay artist and asked her, but some people are touchy about questions about their art and I don't take rejection well.

But during my search, I came upon a clay with the lofty name of  Pardo Professional Art Clay.  Well, being the professional that I am, I thought, this is perfect for me!  I guess there is another version of Pardo which has beeswax added to it, not a good thing, in my opinion, and it was deemed too soft by the artists who tried it.  But the professional clay does not.

Okay, I thought, I'll order some and try it out.  That's when I came across a reference that mentioned using Pardo Professional  Art Clay and alcohol inks.  I must mention here that I'm a compulsive shopper when it comes to crafts.  If I see something that piques my interest, I often buy it, even though I have no idea, at the time, what I'll use it for.  As a consequence, I have plastic tubs full of "carp" that I've bought but never used.  One such purchase was some alcohol inks.  I bought them when I was making greeting cards and I thought they might be interesting to use.  But since I sometimes have the attention span of a gnat, I lost interest in card making before I got to use the inks. 

Now to the real reason for this post!  Pardo Professional Art Clay and alcohol inks!  I've used alcohol inks with Premo translucent clay with varying degrees of success.  Premo tends to get sticky when mixed with the inks and I've had more success mixing in small bits of colored clay.  So I sent for some PPAC(Pardo Professional Art Clay)  Since acronyms are all the rage, I thought I'd make up my own!  Plus I'm tired of typing out Pardo Professional Art Clay every time I mention it! Anyway, the same website had a selection of alcohol inks, as well, so I ordered more of those, since the package I bought years ago only had three different colors. 

These are Tim Holtz  alcohol inks. They have wonderful names like Wild Plum, Butterscotch and Pesto and come in little squeeze bottles.  I couldn't wait!  I watched and read tutorials on using alcohol inks with polymer clay while I waited for my package to arrive.  What I neglected to assimilate was the fact that you should wear some sort of protective clothing while using these inks.  I don't know how I manage to miss this salient fact but I did.  Maybe I was just so excited to get started.

  When my PPAC package arrived, I tore it open and spilled the contents onto my workbench.  I conditioned the clay by kneading, let me mention that PPAC is not as easy to condition as Premo, but not as hard as the original Fimo, so I had to work at it a bit.  I flattened out the clay by running it through my pasta machine at the thickest setting.  I added a few drops of alcohol inks and carefully folded the edges of the clay around it.  Well, I guess I wasn't careful enough.  When I started to squeeze the clay to mix it, ink shot out of the little square of clay and all over my shirt, my workbench and my hands!  It's a good thing my dog was on the other side of the room, otherwise he would have become know as Watermelon (the color I used first) rather than Finn!

Luckily, my clothes were the old ones I use for working and my workbench is so stained with all and sundry that a few more stains didn't matter.  My hands, on the other hand, were stained a lovely shade of pink for days!  An elderly woman at the market actually asked if that was a new fad when she saw my hands!   I learned my lesson after that and always use latex gloves when working with alcohol inks.  And one other thing I've found, the color is not easily discernible with PPAC  until you actually cure the clay.  I was trying to make an orangey red clay for some little turtles beads.  I mixed watermelon and butterscotch ink into the clay.  This is what it looks like before baking, a kind of peachy brown:

This is after baking.  I added a touch of gold mica powder mixed with translucent polymer clay and applied it to each segment of the turtle's shell.

I'd like to add that if you spread the ink on a slab of clay and let it dry, it's much easier to incorporate the color.  Less messy as well!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Beading All The Way

I just finished my first ever peyote in the round necklace.  I have made a beaded bezel for a polymer clay cabochon that I made.  I thought it came out pretty good and I was eager to try another one. 

 Well life intervened and it was months before I got around to making another piece.
 I started beading the cabochon  several times, trying to make the bezel fit around the cabochon, just like it did for the "experts" on You-Tube.  I didn't have much luck.  My cabochon slid out, rolled under my refrigerator or the beads got twisted and became a tangled mess.

Now, my prescribed behavior for these setbacks is to throw the whole piece at the wall while muttering several colorful profanities, but I contained myself, seeing as how I was babysitting my grandson at the time. 

I finally decided to go back to the way I had created the first piece.  That worked much better and I completed the bezel in no time.

Now it was time to start the peyote round stitch to create the necklace.  I found some videos on the aforementioned You-Tube and went to town.  Yes, I went to town, but oh, so, slooowly.  The town I was going to could have pick up and moved while I was working on this necklace.   Did anyone ever tell you that beading a necklace in peyote stitch using 11/0 beads is so boring!!  At least, I think so.  The piece sat on my studio bench for months, growing in miniscule increments.  I really did work on it, but only for a few rows at a time.  Much more than that and I wanted to take a nap.

But I finally finished it!  And let me state right now, before all you beaders out there show up at my house in angry protest, in retrospect, beading the necklace wasn't that bad and I will probably do it again.  But I think I'll wait for the depths of winter before I try.

Here's the finished project.  I'm quite proud of it.
Victorian Bordello Beaded Cabochon and Necklace

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Beware The Old Yarn Stash

I have a huge stash of yarn in my basement.  I don't know where it came from, maybe it crawled in one day when I was inattentive and left the cellar door open,  I've had that happen with snakes and toads and maybe that's what happened with the yarn.

However it happened, I have skeins and skeins of yarn!   The colors are not very attractive and the texture of most of it is questionable.  Why some company produced yarn that feels like kitchen scrubbing pads is beyond me but it's there in my basement, lying in wait for me every time I go down there.

It usually looks accusingly at me, as if to say, "Why do you hate me and never let me see the light of day?"  I've tried to ignore it, but it's getting harder and harder.  I feel bad for the poor stuff, even though it's ugly and scratchy and no one in a million years would want to wear anything made from it.

And I was successful in ignoring it until a couple of months ago.  That was when I came up with the brilliant idea to try and design a shrug pattern.  Most of the shrug patterns I've seen are simply rectangles of knitting with parts stitched up for the arms.  Is that the route I took when designing my pattern?  Oh no, not me!  I had to have one with fluted cuffs and different stitches to give it texture and a nice big ruffle around the neck line! 

So down to the basement, where the yarn is kept contained in plastic tubs.  I did that so the yarn doesn't get out and try to strangle me when I go down to do laundry and so far it's worked!  Anyway, I pulled the tubs down and cautiously opened them.
All the yarn started clamoring for my attention.  "Pick me,pick me!"  they all shouted.

After doing battle with some of the more unruly skeins, I headed upstairs with my choices.  I picked a florescent orange, don't ask why, I don't know, maybe it yelled louder than all the rest,  a variegated yarn with the appealing name of Chili, a raspberry colored yarn and a large skein of Christmas red.  Then I started knitting.  I won't bore you with the details but it took me quite a while to finish this piece and I did so in the middle of July so I can't even wear my creation for months, but oh well, I will get to wear it eventually.

And now, what you've all been waiting for (if you've had the courage and stamina to read this far), here is my shrug in all its glory!

 Note the bright orange ruffle that encircles the whole thing.  I wanted it to mimic the cuffs with a knit 4, purl 4 ribbing but I ran out of room on my circular needles because I had about a gajillion stitches on the needle but I was too cheap to go out and buy a larger set.